Don’t Leave me This Way by Joan Smith
[Academic and series sleuth Loretta Lawson is investigating. At the end of a women’s group meeting:]
Sue came back with her own and Loretta’s coats in her arms.
‘Weighs a ton’ she said disapprovingly, handing Loretta her fake fur.
‘It’s very warm,’ Loretta pointed out. ‘Ready?’
[Later. Loretta meets a policeman in Hampshire. He says to her:]
‘Me? No, I live in London.’
‘Thought so, dressed like that.’ He grinned and gestured towards her coat, which was draped over the empty chair next to her….
She finished her tea and got up. He was already pulling on the heavy overcoat he had brought with him from the police station, and he did up the buttons while she put on her fake fur.
‘Great coat,’ he remarked, leading the way to the door. He opened it and stood back for her.
Loretta felt a welcome blast of cold air on her face and realized how warm it had been inside the café. She tuned up the collar of her coat and stepped gladly out into the street.
commentary: I’m working my way through Joan Smith’s splendid Loretta Lawson books – this follows on from a blogpost on two earlier books in the series.
In this one a friend – or more of an acquaintance – turns up to claim Loretta’s hospitality just before Christmas. Smith shows in full all the ways in which houseguests can be annoying, and inconvenient, even if they are the nicest people in the world – and Sandra isn’t, she is a pain. All this is funny and wince-making. But then Sandra disappears. Loretta does some investigating, in between her academic work and her affair with someone from a previous book. The weather is cold, the university is just getting going after Christmas, and it’s a great picture of grumpy London life in January. Joan first met Sandra in a long-disbanded women’s group – they meet up again to discuss Sandra (as in the first extract above) in a brilliant and again all too recognizably awkward event. Recriminations and bad memories (‘you were all so bloody het’) feature prominently.
Loretta also ends up with Sandra’s teenage daughter in her flat – another person worried about the fake fur coat:
‘Is that real?’ Lizzie asked in a disapproving voice, hanging her duffel coat on the next-door hook.There was in fact a claim at one time that fake fur was of itself politically incorrect, simply because it looked like real fur – but I haven’t heard that theory for a while. Some people in this book would certainly espouse it if they could.
‘Good God no’ said Loretta… ‘Have you ever seen an animal this colour?’
‘It might be dyed.’ Lizzie said dismissively.
Anyway, this is another intriguing investigation for Loretta, and a lovely picture of a certain kind of life and time, and very much of certain people – Smith does great characters.
Joan Smith liked my previous entry on the Lawson books – wouldn’t it be great if she wrote some more?
Thanks to Leah for trying on the coat….